The best way to learn about virtualisation and all of the associated products is to just play with them. However, experimenting with production infrastructure is not really recommended. What you need instead is a lab. It doesn’t have to be production grade equipment as the aim is to familiarise yourself with the functionality and interoperability of the various products.
Some people have access to end of life equipment, some use powerful PCs and laptops with VMware Workstation or Fusion to simulate what they need. Some may have a budget to setup a lab and some might have to dig into their own pockets. Whatever your situation, being able to play and experiment is vital if you’re at all serious about virtualisation.
Whatever route you choose, the most important thing is ensuring that what you want to test will actually work on your chosen platform. It doesn’t have to be officially supported but it does have to work without complicated workarounds being required.
There are a number of sites dotted around that will help you find compatible hardware. Simon Seagrave’s site (TechHead) is a good place to keep bookmarked, particularly his Deals page. Simon Gallagher is practically an industry expert when it comes to innovative lab setups. Several posts on his site are dedicated to his vTARDIS lab – a pair of pedestal servers running nested ESX VMs.
Also out there are sites detailing whiteboxes. These are hardware components and platforms that do not appear on VMware’s compatibility lists but that work nonetheless.